Full Basket Belize is a volunteer-run organization founded by a handful of former Peace Corps and other volunteers and funded by the donations of generous souls just like yourself. Most of us (but not all) volunteered, worked, vacationed, and/or lived in Belize at some point. Some of us still do.
Day-to-day operations are handled by a small group of volunteers, listed below. If you’d like to lend a hand, please contact us and let us know. If you don’t have the time to volunteer but would like to donate, you can do so online by clicking on the DONATE button at left or by sending a check to Full Basket Belize, P.O. Box 65281, Washington DC 20035 USA.
Board of Directors, 2012 - 2014
Jo Link – President
Jo Link spent the majority of her professional career as a computer science and math secondary school teacher in Hawaii. She has a Bachelors degree in mathematics and a Masters degree in Computer Science Education. In 2000 she and her husband Bob joined the Peace Corps and were assigned to Belize as Information Technology Peace Corps Volunteers (PCV). They spent two years in Belmopan, Belize, where Jo taught computer literacy to public school teachers and English to Spanish-speaking refugees from other Central American countries. In addition, Jo was co-editor of the PCV quarterly magazine, “Toucan Times,” and served as head of the Volunteer Advisory Council (VAC). She now lives in Portland, Oregon, with Bob; is retired; and spends lots of time with her five grandchildren. She has served on the Full Basket Belize Board of Directors for the last two years as co-communications director, co-scholarship director, and elections chair.
Kristi Drexler – Vice President
Kristi Drexler served as a Peace Corps volunteer in San Ignacio, Belize, from 1997-1999 in environmental education. She assisted with field research at Las Cuevas research station (near Caracol) and helped train Conservation Officers for the Forestry Department in environmental education and co-management of protected areas. She earned a Masters degree at Ohio University and now instructs courses full-time with American Public University. In Las Cruces, Kristi founded and directs the Belize Field School Program for New Mexico State University and other universities by coordinating a series of accredited courses in wildlife science, marine ecology, primate behavior, archaeology, entomology, agriculture and service learning.
Katie Meehan – Secretary
Katie Meehan served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize (2000-2002) and Guatemala (2002-2003), working in environmental education and rural community development. Following Peace Corps, Meehan earned her master’s degree in environmental management from Oxford University and her PhD in geography from the University of Arizona. She now works as a professor in geography at the University of Oregon.
Mirella Shannon – Treasurer
Mirella Shannon served two years as an Information Technology Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, Belize, from 2000-2002 where she taught in the Computer Science Department at the University of Belize. Ms. Shannon is currently an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago where she developed and is now the coordinator of the Game Design Programming Concentration major. Her current research focuses on finding new and innovative ways to attract women and minorities to careers in computer science by developing new ideas on the use of technology and new forms of serious gaming. She has published and presented several papers on the subject and has received two grants to further her work. She is committed to public service as evidenced by her volunteer work in Belize for the Peace Corps and Namibia for World Teach. Previously, in her 30-year career in Information Systems, Ms. Shannon was the Vice President of Institutional Operations for the New York City investment management firm Neuberger Berman, a senior executive for SEI Corporation, and the president of her own management consulting firm which she started in 1996. Mirella holds an M.A. from New York University and a B.A. from DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois.
Barret Graf – Fundraising
Barret Graf left the Peace Corps in 2002 and has been a 6th grade middle school teacher in the South Central Los Angeles ever since. During his time as a teacher he has published several district-wide manuals on curriculum implementation for middle school teachers as well as teacher supplements for ESL students. The University of Southern California nominated him for Los Angeles teacher of the year for his work in decreasing middle and high school dropout rates. He is currently a Northrup Grumman Earthwatch Fellow, which allows him to write state-of-the-art curriculum using conservation as the focal point. He is the founder of Young Storytellers of Los Angeles, a school-based theater program where students learn to write and perform stories. During his time in Belize, Barret worked for the Ministry of Education writing curriculum and teaching educators how to implement information technology into their classrooms.
Jill Hepp – Membership
Jill Hepp served as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2000-2002 in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. While in Belize, she worked with the non-governmental organization Green Reef on coral reef conservation projects and environmental education. Having completed her Masters of Science in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development at the University of Maryland in 2005, Jill now works on the Pew Environmental Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign.
Brandon Kitagawa – Project Grants
Brandon Kitagawa served as a Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental education and marine conservation at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve in Belize from 1999-2001. While living in Belize, Brandon gained an appreciation for the unique potential and challenges of development in Belize. Brandon credits his time in Belize for directing him towards work that connects communities to public policy. He spent almost four years as a community organizer working with neighborhoods in Sacramento and currently works on environmental health and professional life has kept him in California, Brandon has remained committed to being connected to efforts in Belize. He has volunteered with FBB since 2005 to help coordinate FBB’s grants program and has served on the Board of Directors since 2010.
Erin McCool – Scholarships
Erin McCool served as an environmental education volunteer in Golden Stream Village, Belize, from 2001-2003. During her service she worked with the locally run Ya’axche Conservation Trust to create a conservation curriculum for elementary schools In the Southern District of Belize. Erin also worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross after Hurricane Iris blew through, leaving many families homeless and without a food crop for the year. Following her service in the Peace Corps, Erin attended law school at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. After graduation in 2006, she moved to Portland, Oregon, to clerk for the honorable Rex Armstrong on the Oregon Court of Appeals. She currently works as an employment and civil rights litigator representing only plaintiffs in claims of disability, racial, and gender discrimination. Erin lives with her husband Paul and their three cats.
Kara Martinez – Newsletter Editor
Kara Martinez served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize from 1999-2001, where she worked with the Ministry of Rural Development and Cornerstone Foundation in the Cayo District. She teaches international relations, development, and Latin American studies courses as an adjunct instructor for American Public University. She currently resides in the Denver metro area where she serves on the advocacy committee for the Denver Justice and Peace Committee, a grassroots nonprofit promoting human rights, economic justice and peace in Latin America through education and solidarity project peace in Latin America through education and solidarity projects. Kara holds a Bachelors degree in International Relations and a Masters degree in International Human Rights.
Leroy Almendarez – Liaison
Leroy Almendarez is presently the Director of Administration and Tariffs at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of Belize. Through his work at the PUC, he has been lecturing at the Public Utility Research Center (PURC) of the Warrington School of Business of the University of Florida since January 2009. He was previously a general director with IFOB and still assists with the evaluation of proposals for funding. He also does voluntary work with the KIWANIS Club of Belize assisting young people and those affected by poverty. Leroy possesses an MBA from the University of the West Indies and just completed his doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership.
Jeffrey Cleveland – General Director
Jeffrey Cleveland served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, from 1997-1999, in Small Business Development. He taught the first business programs at the University (College) of Belize’s Toledo Campus during its first two start-up years and also developed and taught Outreach Programs for the local business owners. Jeffrey extended his Close of Service (COS) date by two months so that he could watch “his kids” become the first graduating class from the Toledo Campus. Following his return to the States, Jeffrey became involved with a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on substance abuse prevention for minors. He continues to works for this organization remotely from a mountain in North Central New Mexico where he is building a house.
Sarah Reynolds – Volunteer
Sarah Reynolds served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Punta Gorda, Belize, from 2000-2002. While in Belize, Ms. Reynolds worked as a professor at the University of Belize – Toledo teaching courses for the University’s Natural Resource Management degree program. Ms. Reynolds also worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Belize Red Cross. Upon return from the Peace Corps, Ms. Reynolds attended law school at the University of Chicago. In 2003, she spent an additional summer in Belize City conducting legislation strategy research as a United Nations Development Program intern for Belize’s Coastal Zone Management Authority. Ms. Reynolds is currently working as a litigator at Mayer Brown in Chicago.